What does poverty in Singapore looks like?

Currently, while Singapore has no acceptable measure of poverty, we consider any four person household that makes less than $1,250 per month as somewhat struggling. The $1,250 figure is considered the average a four person household would typically spend on food, clothing and shelter per month.

Tackling poverty is complex. A lot goes beyond the superficiality of assuming the cause of poverty is lacking responsibility in making better choices.

150 families & individuals supported by our Casework, and food distribution programme

35% beneficiaries under our Family Support Services have Health issues

xx% families…

The median household income of families who sought help from was $xxxx

Unemployment increased by xxx%

Household income for poor families in Singapore fell 69% last year due to Covid-19

Fractured Lives Struggling Everyday

Alan himself had been trapped in the poverty cycle all his life.
The everyday stress and lived insecurities from a young age made it different for them to focus on seemingly simple tasks that the rest of us take for granted, such as budgeting.
Given Mani’s educational qualifications, the jobs available to her typically require her to work weekends or after childcare operating hours. When many working mothers have the support of grandparents, domestic workers or family friends to care for their children, Mani does not have that luxury.
Children from poor families are more likely to experience developmental delays and learning difficulties compared to their peers. They are also more likely to experience anxiety, depression and difficulties with impulse control.
Plenty of research point to the impact of the toxic stress of poverty on children’s brain development, which sometimes continues into adulthood.
When these children grow up, they are more likely to experience similar psychological problems, including persistent negative thinking. These problems are not easily reversed by budgeting exercises or financial management workshops.
Employment assistance programmes may help with money and give them the confidence to secure a job, but will not eradicate this scourge of poverty.
When we understand the psychological impact of poverty and the effects on a person’s mental and emotional well-being, we may realise that six months isn’t enough to help someone move out of poverty.
We may also realise that behavourial strategies focusing on changing individual behaviour should only be applied after we address some of these adults’ more pressing and fundamental mental health issues and early childhood trauma.

Breaking the cycle of poverty

When we focus only on skills development and mindset change, we miss the mark, because we do not truly address the root of the problem that traps people in poverty.
With a lot of handholding, support, understanding and encouragement, Siti finally stepped out to work part-time after eight months. She struggled to cope with the household responsibilities and the demands of her new job. She finally gained regular employment in a restaurant but the path to that, which included securing but losing another job along the way, was not linear or easy.
In eradicating poverty, efforts must be made to understand the complexities behind poverty.
The poor can’t just snap out of it and the privilege of being economically comfortable that confers us advantages in pursuing success is invisible to those who have it.
Those of us who enjoy this privilege must find ways to understand the psyche of those who experience poverty daily. Perhaps it is when we do so that we can change the way we design and implement our anti-poverty programmes to greater effectiveness.